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Bike thefts are, unfortunately, incredibly common.
There is no foolproof way to avoid bike theft, but by creating a bike security system, you can drastically reduce the risk. Having a layered security system made up of lots of different components will ultimately make stealing your bike not worth the hassle, and make it easier to recover your bike if the worst does happen.
In this article, we’ll discuss the multitude of different bike security methods and products, from alarmed bike locks to lockable bike covers, the most secure locations to keep your bike to GPS trackers that could help reunite you with your bike if the worst happens.
On average in Britain, a bike gets stolen once every six minutes. That works out to ten per hour, or two hundred and forty a day.
It will come as no surprise that London is considered the number one hotspot for bike theft: between April and November 2020, 113,000 bikes were stolen in the capital.
However, across the country as a whole, the number of bicycle thefts is actually decreasing. According to research from Bikmo, reported bike thefts in England and Wales dropped by 10 per cent from 2020 to 2021, with 67,116 bikes stolen in 2021 and 75,573 stolen the year before.
While this sounds like good news, it absolutely does not mean that you can get complacent about bike security. Bicycles are valuable possessions, and when left unattended they are an easy target for criminals looking to make a few quid.
This is particularly true when it comes to e-bikes: a study in the Netherlands found that electric bikes are three times more likely to be stolen than a regular bike, which makes sense considering the relative value of e-bikes compared to normal bikes.
Acording to the Office of National Statistics, more than half (54%) of all reported bike thefts were from homes — including garages or car parks — so your bike is not 100% safe just because it’s locked behind a metal garage door.
In 2019/2020, around 14% of bikes were stolen from outside public places like supermarkets, gyms, and pubs, and 9% were taken straight from the streets.
So, while it might seem obvious to have a good security system when leaving your bike on a pavement bike rack, it’s just as important to lock it up properly at home too — bike theft is pretty common no matter where you leave it.
Creating the Best Bicycle Security System
The best bicycle security system is multi-layered, with lots of different components and back-up plans.
Put simply: a D-lock on its own just won’t cut it, even if you splurge on a top-of-the-range one. I’ve lost count of the amount of supposedly theft-proof D-locks I’ve seen cut open and discarded on the streets, and that’s because they’re just not enough of a deterrent for determined bike thieves.
Instead of relying on one type of security feature, you should incorporate several into your anti-theft system.
We’ll go into more detail on these later in this article, but you should be considering the following things:
- Where you lock your bike
- The type of bike lock you use
- GPS trackers
- Security skewers
- Lockable bike covers
- Good insurance for if the worst does happen
It’s a common complaint that proper bike security measures are expensive, but so is buying a new bike. Therefore, investing in a proper security system now can save you a lot of heartache (and cash) down the line.
Bike Theft Prevention Devices
There are a wide range of bike theft prevention devices on the market, and they are best used in combination with one another for maximum security.
Having a complete bike security system not only acts as a deterrent (because what thief is going to want to break through five layers of security when there’s a bike with just a D-lock right next to yours for the taking?), but makes it physically harder to steal and can even help you to find your bike in the event that it does get stolen.
Instead of just using a regular bike lock, give a potential thief the shock of their lives with an alarmed bike lock.
Alarmed bike locks are expensive, so they’re probably only really worth investing in if your bike is worth more than a couple of hundred quid and is often left in busy urban areas, but they are a great deterrent for bike thieves.
The best alarmed bike locks let out a deafening sound when someone tries to steal your bike, not only making it painful for the thief to linger, but also attracting the attention of passers-by to boost the chances of the thief getting caught.
Some alarmed bike locks are linked to apps which give you a notification when the alarm has been triggered, so you’re always in the know about your bike’s safety.
It is a valid concern that you might set off the alarm yourself accidentally, so some models are equipped with a ‘pre-alarm’ system, activating the main alarm after further contact without the owner silencing the alarm.
Our favourite alarmed bike lock is the ABUS 770A SmartX Bluetooth Bicycle Lock with Alarm, which you can track on your phone.
It is very expensive, but if you have a pricey bike it’s more than worth it. It runs on a battery which can last up to three months on a full charge, and is a keyless lock which runs on your phone’s Bluetooth.
The alarm sounds at at least 100dB for 15 seconds upon activation, which is about as loud as the average concert or nightclub — so it’s sure to attract some attention.
The best GPS trackers are ones which are undetectable to a potential thief, so that they can’t just remove and discard it after stealing your bike.
If a thief isn’t aware that your bike is protected with a GPS tracking system, however, it will be much easier to locate your stolen bike so that the police can take action.
Our favourite GPS tracker is the Sherlock GPS Tracker, which fits on your bike’s handlebars seamlessly and invisibly.
It works through a smartphone app which shows you where your bike is at any given time, and comes fitted with an embedded SIM card, providing the device with two years of internet connection to ensure that tracking can always take place. This internet connection is included in the price, so you don’t need to worry about ongoing costs after the initial purchase.
The smartphone app has three main features. Park mode alerts you if your bike is moved, theft mode allows you to share your bike’s location with the police, and there is also a bike passport which includes specific details of your bike for you to pass on to the authorities in the event of a theft.
Sadly, the Sherlock GPS Tracker is rather expensive, but if you have a valuable bike, you may find it to be more than worth the price.
It’s not always the entire bike that gets stolen. Seats and wheels can be lucrative targets for thieves, so while it’s important to ensure the whole bike is secure, you’d be wise to bolt down any removable components too.
Security skewers make it harder for thieves to tamper with your wheels, because they require a specifically-designed allen key to undo them.
Our favourite bike skewers are the Unbekannt Anti-Theft Quick Release Skewers 3-Piece, which are affordable and come with a five-sided lock. They are made of durable steel, are easy to install, and offer extra comfort and security compared to most quick-release designs.
Also, we have a quick tip when it comes to bike skewers: fill the skewer head with glue so it can’t easily be released! You can use a bit of nail varnish remover to dissolve the glue when you need to take the skewer off yourself, but it just adds an extra layer of protection.
To secure the bike seat, consider a high-quality anti-theft seat clamp. It’s a huge error to use a quick-release clamp, because anyone could walk up to your bike and steal the seat without tools.
When it comes to seat clamps, you have two main options: a non-quick release seat clamp, or a locking seat clamp.
Non-quick release seat clamps require tools to remove the saddle. This could be an allen key, or tools to remove nuts and bolts, but both forms are better than an easily-undone quick release clamp.
Locking seat clamps offer even more protection, because they need a manufacturer-specific tool to release the clamp. This makes it more difficult and longer to remove the saddle, so many thieves might just give up.
There are lots of different varieties of seat clamps on the market, from reusable secure zip ties to gravity clamps which can only be used when your bike is turned upside down.
The Abus Nutfix Locking M5 Seatpost Clamp is a great example of a gravity clamp, and is perfect if you store your bike up-right. The nut is fitted with a mechanism that only releases the screw below when the bike is on its side, so it is impossible to access the screw when the bike is upright.
Security-aside, bike covers are brilliant if you leave your bike outside for extended periods of time. They help prevent your bike from getting rusty and damaged in cold or wet weather, and help protect it from dust and other things that could ruin your bike if left unchecked.
But if you’re investing in a bike cover, you may as well get one that can be locked. That way, not only is your bike protected from the elements, it’s also protected from thieving hands.
It has sealed seams, Velcro lock-through panels, and can be packed away easily into its ‘Stuff Sac’ which can be fixed to your bike frame while you ride.
Where to Lock Your Bike Safely
While it is essential to have a good security system for your bike, you should also carefully consider where you lock it for maximum safety.
As we mentioned earlier, more than half of all reported bike thefts happened from homes and outbuildings, but of course a home is generally more secure than a street bike rack.
There is a lesson here, though: wherever you leave your bike, even if it’s in a locked garage or house, you should always ensure that your security system is fully equipped.
If you have the space in your home or secure garage for your bike, that seems the most obvious choice as a place to lock your bike when it’s not in use.
If you live in an apartment building, look into whether there is secure bike parking available. This could be in your building’s undercroft, or in locked outdoor bike sheds. Of course, these are not foolproof, and it’s sadly all too common for thieves to access these areas by tailgating or breaking locks on bike sheds, so make sure your bike is securely locked within it.
If you have to leave your bike on the street for whatever reason, proceed with the utmost caution. This is where a full security system, particularly one with loud, attention-grabbing alarms, is most essential. While there’s no way to eliminate the risk of your bike getting stolen, kitting it out with security devices will act as a huge deterrent to thieves. Because why would a thief battle through your security system when there’s a bike nearby that’s barely even locked?
To summarise, nowhere is an entirely secure place to leave your bike. No matter where you store it, from inside your home to on the street, your best bet is to keep it securely locked and secure with alarms, security skewers, GPS trackers and more to deter a potential thief and increase your chance of recovering your bike if the worst does happen — especially if you have a particularly valuable bike.
Take a Note of Your Bike’s Serial Number
A bike’s serial number is a unique identifier of that particular bike, so it’s really important that you make a note of it when you get a new bike as proof of ownership. Typically the serial number is between 6 and 10 characters and is formed of letters and numbers.
Usually the serial number can be found stamped on the bottom bracket, but that’s not always the case — sometimes it’s on the seat tube, the down tube or the head tube, and sometimes it is a sticker (which is particularly common on carbon frames).
If your bike does get stolen, you will need to alert the police, your insurer, and other authorities, and they will need to know the bike’s serial number so they can identify that it belongs to you if it does turn up.
It is also a good idea to keep a record of your bike description, including any modified parts, and to take up-to-date photos of exactly what your bike looks like.
Bicycle Theft Insurance
Comprehensive bike insurance that includes theft cover is, unfortunately, an essential for any bike owner. If all else goes wrong and your bike does get stolen, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re covered so that you don’t end up totally out of pocket if you need to replace it.
It should go without saying that bike insurance does not replace a quality bike security system, and many bike insurance policies are in fact invalidated if you did not take appropriate steps to ensure your bike was secure.
It’s a belt and braces approach, but one that will help make sure you don’t have to bear the full financial brunt of a bike theft.
Always Report a Stolen Bike to the Police
If the worst happens and your bike is stolen, you must report it to the police within 24 hours.
Reporting your stolen bike to the police should be the first thing on your list, and you should give as much detail as you can about the appearance of your bike, where it was stolen from and when.
If you’ve installed a GPS tracker on your bike, you may even be able to see the current location of your stolen bike, so it’s a good idea to give this information to the police as well.
You can report your stolen bike to the police by phone, online or in person, and it doesn’t take too long. Once the report is filed, the police will provide you with a crime reference number, which your insurer will want to know when you report the theft to them.
The sad reality is that 75% of bike theft victims don’t bother reporting their case to the police, mainly because they don’t think it’s worth the effort. While it’s true that the police rarely retrieve individual bikes, when they bust professional thieves they can recover dozens or even hundreds of bikes at once — and unless they have a crime report with a serial number, they won’t know who they need to return these bikes to.
So, if you want a chance of getting your stolen bike back, you must always report your stolen bike to the police.